Government designates 14 safe areas for angling

By Shelley Shan

The government has designated 14 angling areas in commercial seaports across the nation and ensured their safety in compliance with the Executive Yuan’s “salute to the seas” policy, the Port and Maritime Bureau said yesterday.

Eighteen fishing accidents happened in commercial seaports in the past five years, bureau data showed.

Eight people were killed, eight were injured and two were reported missing in those accidents, the data showed.

The Port of Taichung had the highest number of fishing accidents, in which two people were killed and seven were injured, they showed.

The Port of Taichung’s north breakwater area — a habitat for a wide variety of fish — has drawn more than 58,000 fishing enthusiasts since its opening in October last year as the nation’s demonstration area for recreational fishing, Bureau Deputy Director-General Chen Pin-chuan (陳賓權) said.

It is crucial that the bureau keeps such locations safe for all angling enthusiasts, he said.

Chen said the bureau has inspected 14 designated fishing areas in all commercial seaports and implemented safety measures, including setting up warning signs and making sure that lifebuoys and ropes are available.

To manage the Port of Taichung’s north breakwater area more effectively, the bureau has entrusted the Taiwan Fishermens’ Association with the task of maintaining the safety there, Chen said.

The association has also launched an awareness campaign on the importance of conserving oceanic resources by issuing an eco-friendly fishing ID card and a manual on sustainable fishing at the Port of Taichung, he said.

For their own safety, fishers are advised to wear life jackets and other protective gear, and monitor the waves and sea weather reports, the bureau said.


Taiwanese-born scientist dives to Earth’s deepest part

CHALLENGER DEEP: Lin Ying-Tsong was invited by Caladan Oceanic founder Victor Vescovo to join him on a 10-hour long trip in the company’s submersible

By Lin Chia-nan

Taiwanese-American Lin Ying-Tsong (林穎聰) last month became the first person from Asia and the 12th in human history to dive into the deepest part on Earth, the Challenger Deep in the Mariana Trench.

Lin, 45, an expert in deep sea acoustics with the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) in Massachusetts, joined US adventurer and Caladan Oceanic founder Victor Vescovo, 54, on June 22 in a descent to the central pool of the Challenger Deep, the deepest point of the trench, which lies at a depth of more than 10,900m.

The pair made the descent in a submersible named Limiting Factor, a US$37 million two-seater commissioned by Vescovo from Triton Submarines.

Unlike astronauts who have to wear a spacesuit, they did not experience significant changes of atmosphere, temperature or humidity in the submersible, Lin said in a telephone interview with the Taipei Times on Tuesday last week, after he returned to Massachusetts.

Inside the submersible’s capsule the pressure was kept at one standard atmospheric pressure, while the temperature dropped from about 28 ° C to 20 ° C during the dive and climb, he said, adding that the dive and the return climb took a total of 10 hours.

There are three windows in the capsule, and when looking out from the window beneath their feet, he felt as if he was doing a “seawalk,” Lin said.

Photo courtesy of Caladan Oceanic

The ocean bottom appeared to be an otherworldly desert of deadly gray, where only limited species, such as amphipods, can survive the extreme conditions, he said.

When ascending to the surface, he saw, from the depth of nearly 300m, sunlight gradually extend into a carpet of radiance that brought all colors back, he said, describing the scene as a “sunrise in ocean.”

Maintaining the balance of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the capsule was a matter of life and death, so Vescovo, who was piloting the craft, had to regularly check that oxygen was evenly released, Lin said.

The submersible was equipped with an oxygen reserve sufficient to last two passengers for four days.

Lin’s descent was part of the Caladan Oceanic’s Ring of Fire expedition that began last month, which also included dives by former NASA astronaut Kathy Sullivan — the first US woman to complete a spacewalk — and Kelly Walsh — the son of Don Walsh, the first person to descend to the Challenger Deep, in 1960.

Asked how he got involved in the team, Lin said he received an e-mail invitation from Vescovo, whom he had not met before, in late May after he returned from a cruise to measure underwater acoustics for an offshore wind farm project.

While Vescovo reportedly has opened some dive slots for paying customers, Lin said his descent was sponsored by Vescovo.

“I must have done something noble in my former life, such as saving millions of lives, to have the opportunity to join the team,” he said, still sounding excited by his adventure.

“Because he is an expert in deep ocean acoustics, measurement, and tracking, Dr Lin’s involvement in the expedition was important in advancing further exploration and understanding of how sound waves propagate in the deepest parts of the ocean,” Caladan Oceanic said in a press release.

“I was also happy to make the descent with the first person from Taiwan in a first for that country — and continent — since I strongly support the special US-Taiwan relationship,” Vescovo, a former US Navy commander, said in the statement.

Using the submersible and the company’s support ship the Pressure Drop, Lin conducted a series of acoustics experiments in the week of his dive, including surveying ambient sound and acoustic signals with a hydrophone recorder provided by the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The surveys aim to advance understanding about how sounds propagate and refract in different ocean layers and how the derived coefficients can be applied to estimate the geological components of seabed, Lin said.

He said he had been impressed by how quiet the ocean could be.

The deep sea’s ambient sound only measured 55 decibels when there was no container ship passing by, as the COVID-19 pandemic has reduced ship traffic, he said.

Lin also admired the teamwork of the expedition team, which has concrete scientific goals, including mapping the sea floors and collecting biological and geological samples at the bottom of the Challenger Deep.

“I feel home here [the expedition] like at WHOI, because we are all team players, no individuals, no pointing fingers,” Lin wrote on Facebook on June 27.

Lin obtained his master’s and doctoral degrees from National Taiwan University’s engineering science and ocean engineering department, and then went to Woods Hole to conduct postdoc research, but stayed on after finishing his research project and is now a tenured associate scientist at the institute, where his work has won him several awards.

He said that he has benefited from decades-long Taiwan-US collaboration in ocean research and now he serves as a bridge to sustain the ties from his vantage point at one of the world’s top ocean research institutions.

Lin said that Taiwan’s government should lend more support to ocean sciences and promote public education about the oceans, while scientists from different backgrounds should strengthen their collaborative efforts.

“Taiwan is a maritime country” should be more than just a slogan, he said.

A strong nation is bolstered by its sea power, which could be enhanced by boosting ocean research capacity, he added.


MOI drafts stricter punishments for illegal sand mining

ECOLOGICAL DAMAGE: The proposed changes follow complaints that Chinese vessels have been illegally extracting sand near the Formosa Banks

By Huang Hsin-po and Jake Chung

The Ministry of the Interior (MOI) has proposed amendments to the Act on the Exclusive Economic Zone and the Continental Shelf of the Republic of China (中華民國專屬經濟海域及大陸礁層法) that would impose heavier fines and prison terms for illegal sand mining in Taiwan’s coastal waters.

The act stipulates a maximum fine of NT$50 million (US$1.69 million) and up to five years in prison for “whoever willfully damages or harms the natural resources or ecology” of Taiwan’s exclusive economic zone or continental shelf.

Furthermore, “whoever undertakes construction, use, modification, or the dismantling of artificial islands, installations or structures” in Taiwan’s exclusive economic zone or its continental shelf without permission from the government shall be fined between NT$10 million and NT$50 million, the act says.

The proposed amendments would impose a prison term of between one and seven years, along with a maximum fine of NT$80 million, the ministry said on Tuesday.

The proposal was made in response to complaints that Chinese vessels have been illegally extracting sand in the vicinity of the Formosa Banks, Department of Land Administration Deputy Director Wang Cheng-chi (王成機) said.

Calling for government action to protect Taiwan’s maritime resources, the Society for Wildlife and Nature in May said that Chinese ships have dredged more than 100,000 tonnes of sand daily from the shoal over the past few years, which has altered the sand and sediment and poses a catastrophe for local marine ecology.

Should there be no changes, the proposal would be forwarded to the Executive Yuan for further deliberation, Wang said.

Two separate amendments, sponsored by Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) legislators Lai Jui-lung (賴瑞隆) and Kuan Bi-ling (管碧玲), are being reviewed by the legislature’s finance, foreign affairs and national defense, and internal administration committees.

Lai’s version proposes a fine of between NT$5 million and NT$50 million, while Kuan’s version sets the maximum fine at NT$100 million.

The shoal, which is near the median line of the Taiwan Strait, is a traditional fishing area for Penghu County fishers and a preferred area for marine animal spawning, due to the rich nutrients brought to the area via upwelling.

The Coast Guard Administration (CGA) said that from January to May, it had chased away about 1,200 Chinese sand dredgers.

The CGA early last month detained a Chinese ship — the Hai Hang No. 5679, after finding more than 500 tonnes of sand aboard during an inspection.

The captain, surnamed Xiao (肖), and nine crew members, were indicted by Kaohsiung’s Ciaotou District (橋頭) Prosecutors’ Office for breaching Article 18 of the act.

Additional reporting by CNA


Fishing of three species of large sharks banned

The Fisheries Agency on Thursday announced a ban on fishing three species of large sharks — megamouth, great white and basking sharks — in a bid to preserve biological diversity in waters off Taiwan.

Fishing vessels that catch these sharks by accident must release them back into the sea, whether they are dead or alive, the agency said in a statement on Wednesday.

The ban applies to Taiwanese fishing vessels regardless of where they fish and is to take effect in 60 days, if no objections are raised during that time.

The ban follows a 2008 ban on fishing whale sharks and a 2018 ban on fishing giant oceanic manta rays.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) lists great white sharks as a “vulnerable species” and basking sharks as an “endangered species.”

Although the IUCN in November 2018 categorized megamouth sharks as a species of “least concern” on its Red List, it recommended that Taiwan require that megamouth sharks be released when accidentally caught by people catching sunfish with driftnets.

It also recommended prohibiting driftnet fishing from April to August, when megamouth shark interactions are at their peak.

Given that megamouth sharks — the third-largest shark species by size, following whale sharks and basking sharks — are not the main catch of Taiwanese fishing vessels, the ban would help maintain the diversity of marine biology and improve the nation’s image as a conservator of large cartilaginous fish, the statement said.

Megamouth sharks are one of three plankton-eating shark species, along with the whale shark and basking shark. They are all cartilaginous fish, which have skeletons of cartilage, not bone.

Although vessels are banned from fishing the three species, catching them for teaching or scientific research is allowed after obtaining Cabinet-level approval from the Council of Agriculture, the agency said.

Since March 2013, when catches of the species had to be reported to the authorities, 138 megamouth sharks and 32 great white sharks have been caught in waters near Taiwan, agency data showed.

The new ban was applauded by the Environment and Animal Society of Taiwan (EAST), a Taipei-based non-governmental organization that has pushed for the protection of megamouth sharks.

Megamouth sharks are rarer to spot than whale sharks, EAST chief executive Shih Wu-hung (釋悟泓) said.

From the species discovery and naming in 1976 to June 17, only 226 sightings of megamouth sharks have been recorded around the world, 146 of which were caught in Taiwan, he said.

“Saving megamouth sharks is of great urgency now,” Shih said.


Marine conservation a multilevel obligation

By Chen Chung-ling

The designation of sea areas for marine protection is generally acknowledged as the most effective way to conserve marine life. The measures that come with the designation alleviate the negative impact on marine environments by development, overfishing and climate change, and can help restore biodiversity, which offer opportunities for regional tourism, the fishing industry, biotechnology, education and scientific research.

For many years, government agencies have used their statutory authority to designate marine protected areas, based on different legislation, including the Fisheries Act (漁業法), National Park Act (國家公園法), Wildlife Conservation Act (野生動物保育法) and Cultural Heritage Preservation Act (文化資產保存法).

All those designated areas are equally marine protected areas by name only, as there is no effective management for the designation, which would be essential to implementing ecological protection.

The natural and artificial coastlines of Taiwan proper and the nation’s outlying islands amount to 1,900km. Apart from Taipei and Chiayi City, and Nantou County, all the other 19 counties and cities have direct sea access, and many of them have sufficient means for setting up and maintaining marine protected areas.

While many local governments have designated offshore areas for protection, very few areas have achieved remarkable results, such as those achieved in the Wanghaixiang Chaojing Bay Resource Conservation Area (望海巷潮境海灣資源保育區) in Keelung, the Guanxin Algal Reefs Ecosystem Wildlife Conservation Area (觀新藻礁生態系野生動物保護區) in Taoyuan, the Fushan Fisheries Resources Conservation Area (富山漁業資源保育區) in Taitung County and the Liuqiu Fisheries Resources Conservation Area (琉球漁業資源保育區) in Pingtung County, among others.

These areas, with their abundance of marine life, have become ideal locations for tourism and maritime education. Marine resources have flourished in those areas, yielding ecological, economic and educational values. These protected zones all share two characteristics of good governance: effective enforcement of laws, and partnerships between the local government and communities for the maintenance and management of the areas.

Elinor Ostrom, winner of the 2009 Nobel Prize in Economics, said that the most effective governance model for common goods such as protection areas is a kind of management based on local community engagement. Ostrom’s analysis underscores the importance of local participation in the governance of marine protected areas.

The regulatory approaches commonly adopted by local governments for marine conservation include habitat restoration, seabed cleanup, environment monitoring, designating no-fishing zones and imposing restrictions on fishing methods.

The Executive Yuan is also to introduce a new “salute to the seas” policy guided by five major principles — openness, transparency, service, education and responsibility — to encourage the public to “know the ocean,” “approach the ocean” and “to enter the ocean.”

In this light, setting up one marine protected area in every city and county would be another effective effort.

Through governance by public-private partnerships that include local communities, marine protected areas could become imprinted in the minds of local residents, which could lay a solid foundation for marine ecology conservation and ensure sustainable ocean development.

Chen Chung-ling is a professor at National Cheng Kung University’s Institute of Ocean Technology and Marine Affairs.

Translated by Chang Ho-ming


Evergreen Marine joins recycling initiative

FIRST FOR TAIWAN: The company is the 11th shipowner in the world to become a member of the platform, which aims to encourage responsible ship recycling practices

By Kao Shih-ching

Evergreen Marine Corp (長榮海運) yesterday disclosed its ship recycling policy as it joined the Ship Recycling Transparency Initiative (SRTI), which comprises firms that value its environmental, social and governance objectives.

The SRTI, launched in March 2018 and hosted by the Sustainable Shipping Initiative, a UK-based nonprofit organization, aims to accelerate responsible ship recycling practices by asking its members to share their policies on the platform so that the public can view them, Evergreen said.

Evergreen is the first Taiwanese shipping company to join the initiative, as well as the 11th shipowner member, following founding members such as China Navigation Co Pte Ltd (太古輪船), A.P. Moller-Maersk A/S, D/S Norden A/S, Hapag-Lloyd AG and Wallenius Wilhelmsen Logistics ASA, it said.

Evergreen — Taiwan’s largest shipping company by fleet size — last year implemented a ship recycling policy, which adheres to the EU Ship Recycling Regulation and the Hong Kong International Convention for the Safe and Environmentally Sound Recycling of Ships, it said in its disclosure on the SRTI platform.

Evergreen requires the buyers of its decommissioned vessels to guarantee that the aged vessels are demolished rather than sold to be used second-hand, while vessels can only be recycled at shipyards that are certified by the International Organization for Standardization and are recognized as a “Green Ship Recycling” shipyard by the Hong Kong convention, it said.

When a vessel is decommissioned and recycled, not only can valuable and reusable resources such as steel be recycled, but waste and pollutants that could be dangerous to people and the environment must be processed properly, Evergreen said.

Evergreen’s pro forma contract contains a liquidated damage clause, which helps deter any ill-disposed buyer from doing anything that would contravene it, the company said.

Buyers need to provide reports weekly at least on the vessel’s recycling process to show that their practices are safe and environmentally sound, Evergreen said.

The company, which operates a modern fleet of about 190 container ships with a combined capacity of more than 1.2 million twenty-feet equivalent units, said that nine of its vessels have been recycled based on the policy.

Evergreen said it has a long-standing commitment to keeping the ocean clean, and aims to ensure responsible and sustainable operations.

Joining the SRTI would likely attract more international clients that value the environmental, social and governance objectives, as they prefer shipping firms that are SRTI members, it added.



Sea turtles return safely to ocean

RARE OCCURRENCE: Most sea turtles go to beaches in Siaoliouciou, Orchid Island or Penghu to lay their eggs, and do not often visit Dawan Beach, a veterinarian said.

By Shella Shan

Twenty-four baby sea turtles on Sunday night safely returned to the ocean at Kenting National Park’s Dawan Beach with help from government workers and National Museum of Marine Biology and Aquarium veterinarians.

This was the second time since 2017 that baby sea turtles were found in Kenting National Park.

The turtles were discovered on Sunday night by Kenting Chateau Beach Resort employees, who quickly contacted the Kenting National Park Administration Office.

Representatives from the office, coast guard and the museum arrived at the beach, as the turtles were crawling toward the lights at the hotel.

As baby turtles can die of exhaustion if they do not find their way to the sea, staff from the agencies worked to help them along.

After measuring their shells and checking their bodies for injuries, staff used a white container to carry the turtles to the beach and carefully released them into the ocean.

Museum veterinarian Lee Tsung-hsien (李宗賢) yesterday said that the breeding season for sea turtles is from May to October, with the peak occurring in July and August.

Due to topographical changes and abandoned fishnets littering the coastline, sea turtles in the past few years rarely come ashore to lay their eggs in Taiwan proper, he said.

Most turtles lay their eggs at beaches on Siaoliouciou Island (小琉球), Penghu and Orchid Island (Lanyu, 蘭嶼), he said.

Kenting is a natural habitat for sea turtles, but not many frequent the beaches in the park, because the sands are often packed with tourists, making it difficult for turtles to dig holes to lay their eggs, Lee said.

As such, turtle eggs are mostly found on beaches with relatively few people, he added.

Animal conservationists last month found traces that could have been left by sea turtles on Dawan Beach, Lee said, adding that female turtles were probably looking for a proper beach to lay their eggs.

Once they find a suitable place, they tend to return to the same beach six to seven times, he said.

The 24 baby sea turtles probably came from different mothers which laid the eggs about two months ago, he said, adding that more sea turtle eggs could be hatched at the beach in the days to come.

“It is exciting to know that sea turtles have returned to the Hengchun Peninsula again to lay their eggs. We hope that visitors will avoid Dawan Beach at night, when turtles would come ashore,” Lee said. “We will also speak with hotels about dimming their lights so that baby sea turtles would not go astray.”

“Beach visitors should refill the sandpits before they take off and leave no items behind to facilitate the sea turtles’ trips to the beach,” Lee added.


Remote fishing village under threat

With two-thirds of its land gobbled up by developers and the government rejecting their bid for historic settlement, the residents of Makang refuse to give in.

By Han Cheung

Chen Wang-shi (陳罔市) doesn’t know where to go if she is forced to move. The 78-year-old Chen is an active “sea woman” (海女) in Taiwan’s easternmost fishing village of Makang (馬崗) in New Taipei City’s Gongliao District (貢寮). When the waves are calm, she ventures out to forage for algae, oysters and other edible marine morsels. She lives alone in the village, as her children have moved to the cities for work, returning for weekends and festivals.

“I cannot get used to living in Taipei, and I feel very uncomfortable if I don’t go out to the ocean to forage. I have too deep an emotional connection to this place. Even if it’s inconvenient, I like it here,” Chen tells the Taipei Times inside her home a minute’s walk from the ocean.

With about two-thirds of Makang acquired by developers, Chen belongs to 22 households who face eviction. While the court battles between the developers and residents continue, the villagers are trying to preserve Makang by applying to the government for cultural heritage status for a cluster of 100-year-old stone houses and its sea women culture.

So far, two of the houses have been designated as historical buildings, but New Taipei City’s Department of Cultural Affairs last August rejected Makang’s bid to list them collectively as a historic settlement.

Meanwhile, Yu Po-hsuan (游伯軒) and Yeh Kuei-hsien (葉貴嫻), two Taipei transplants who run a coffee shop in Makang, have been spearheading an effort to boost tourism, and Makang is a lot livelier on weekends than two years ago. They have also been emphasizing the area’s cultural heritage through guided tours and other activities.

“These developers often target remote places that escape the public eye,” Yu says. “That’s also their weakness; our goal is to let more people see and appreciate this place.”

The newfound attention has also instilled a sense of pride in the mostly elderly residents, who have lived here their whole lives and may not understand the significance of historical preservation.

“They now realize that the tourists actually like these stone houses and come take pictures of them on weekends. Now they are eager to tell people, ‘These are more than 100 years old,’” Yeh says.


In the village’s heyday, 80-year-old Chiang-chen Pi-chu (江陳碧珠) and 50 other people lived in a four-sided residence with a stone courtyard. Today, she’s the only permanent resident left.

As a self-contained village, the land rights were never clearly recorded, and often confirmed by verbal agreement only. When the Japanese began implementing land registration policies in Taiwan, most villagers were illiterate or unfamiliar with the law, and for convenience’s sake they registered their land under a few individuals, who collected and paid the residents’ property taxes once per year.

Under the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), those who had the land registered in their names became the legal owners of a large portion of the village. Tu Yu-wen (涂右文), CEO of the Environmental Rights Foundation (環境權保障基金會), says that as a result, the developers were able to purchase so much of Makang by convincing these landowners to sell the property without first speaking to the people who lived on the land. Her foundation has been providing professional and legal help to the villagers in their struggle.

When the developers began suing villagers in 2018 to evict them, the murky land rights history worked against them, and several households have lost their cases.

“The law does not consider historical context or development, if you don’t have evidence, it’s very hard to win,” Tu says.

Ironically, about 30 years ago the government attempted to designate these stone houses as historical buildings, but the residents refused out of distrust toward the authorities. Last year, they helped block a government plan to build a yacht marina in neighboring Maoao (卯澳) village.

When three New Taipei City cultural heritage review committee members visited the village to inspect the two historical buildings, one of them suggested that the villagers also apply for historic settlement status, which is why Yu and Yeh are surprised that their bid was rejected. The city insists that the suggestion was just the opinion of that member.

The couple, who moved here in 2016 from Taipei for its rustic charm, says that they had to first convince the elderly population that this was a place worth protecting. Through promoting activities, exhibits and tours, plus the growing popularity of the Caoling Circle-line Bikeway which opened in 2011, tourists can now be seen frolicing in the waters of the intertidal zones and taking photographs of the stone buildings. Local vendors have also popped up, selling marine specialities along the streets.

“At first, they didn’t know that people would be interested in their way of life here,” Tu says “Only in recent years have they realized how special of a place they live in.”


The New Taipei City Department of Cultural Affairs rejected Makang’s bid for historic settlement on the grounds that many of the stone houses have been modified or remodeled with modern elements.

Weng Yu-chin (翁玉琴), the culture department’s chief secretary, says that the houses simply don’t qualify for the status due to their lack of uniformity. Weng gives Japan’s Shirakawago village as an example with its perfectly preserved clusters of thatched roof houses.

“The cluster in Makang is a hodgepodge of one-story and two-story houses, many with modern elements,” she says. “The collective history and appearance has been partially damaged. But we can still register the individual houses that are preserved well.”

Currently there are only 18 historic settlements across Taiwan.

Last month the Taipei High Administrative Court ruled that the city violated protocol at its cultural heritage review committee’s voting session by recusing Chang Chen-chung (張震鍾), one of 17 committee members, and the only who reportedly supported the village’s bid.

The city has appealed.

Regarding the administrative court case, Weng says Chang was hired by the Department of Cultural Affairs to independently research and report the viability of Makang as a historical settlement to the review committee, and that it was legal to recuse him from the meeting since his role was more of a witness. But the judge has deemed that his recusal violated the procedures for committee voting sessions.

“The final vote was 8-0, so New Taipei City claims that Chang wouldn’t have made a difference,” Yeh says. “But he could have influenced other committee members during the discussion process.”

Tu says that due to the responsibilities that come with the historical settlement status, coupled with the land disputes, the city may just be reluctant to approve the designation.

“The Department of Cultural Affairs often acts conservatively and cautiously,” she says. “They would rather there be fewer cultural heritage sites, otherwise it’s a very exhausting process to protect it, especially if landlords and developers are involved. They probably envision this case becoming quite tricky.”

Weng says they have appealed because they don’t agree with the verdict, not because they don’t want to preserve Makang’s cultural heritage.

Chang declined to comment due to the ongoing litigation.


Although no plans for developing Makang have been produced, Weng trusts the developers a lot more than the villagers do. In a public hearing, which she moderated, the developers said that they would incorporate the village’s traditions while developing the area, and expressed that the stone houses were worth preserving.

“We also know that the local residents don’t want to see too much change,” Weng says. “So the two sides can sit down and talk, and if needed the government can act as a mediator and consultant. Maybe we could work something out where some parts are preserved and some are reorganized, so the interests are more balanced.”

From talking to the villagers, however, the relations between the two sides are strained, especially in light of the eviction cases.

Currently, the city is waiting for the court cases — both theirs and the developers — to be resolved before taking any action, but Weng believes that the two historic building designations already offer much protection to Makang.

“Any development around these buildings has to be reviewed and approved by the government,” she says. “We have to maintain the atmosphere of the area; there cannot suddenly be a tall modern building next to the stone house. There are also limitations on development according to the environment and culture of the people.”

Echoing Yu and Yeh, Tu says that the only way to change the government’s mind is to attract more visitors and hope that they care about the place’s future enough to increase pressure on the authorities.

Tu says that even if the historic settlement bid fails, there are other ways to preserve the village.They can apply for cultural landscape status, which is the designation for Taipei’s illegal settlement-turned-artist village Treasure Hill (寶藏巖).

“Makang has the ocean, a settlement and rice terraces in the mountains. People were able to sustain themselves and fully utilize local resources. Their wisdom and experience can be preserved and passed on,” she says.

They can also aim to become a fishing village special district under the Urban Planning Act (都市計畫法),whereupon the residents will have a bigger say over the future of Makang.

“Part of the status entails how to preserve local traditions, but the residents have to work with the government as well as civic groups and the developers,” she says. “The residents need a clear and strong vision of what they want, so they have the leverage to negotiate with the developers.”

There is still a long way to go, Tu says, and she says that any delays in the process will buy them more time to develop this vision.

“Honestly, I’m fine with New Taipei City appealing the court case,” she says “At least we bought some more time to keep building up the confidence among the residents. This is just the beginning.”


Penghu coral reefs endangered by warming, tourism

By Liu Yu-ching and William Hetherington

Environmentalists raised concerns that coral reefs near islands in southern Penghu County are at risk due to warming ocean waters and the tourism industry.

Near-shore waters off Penghu’s southern islands have been much warmer this year, which has caused coral bleaching, Academia Sinica Biodiversity Research Center fellow Chaolun Allen Chen (陳昭倫) said on Sunday last week.

On Dongyuping (東嶼坪) — one of the islands that comprise the South Penghu Marine National Park — corals are covered with sand, while other reefs have been damaged by tourism, he said.

Coral bleaching — which has worsened this year due to fewer typhoons reducing the water temperature — has been detected near Dongjiyu (東吉嶼), Dongyu-pingyu (東嶼坪嶼) and Cimei (七美嶼) islets, he said.

Marine biologist Chen Chin-chuan (陳盡川) said that during a dive close to the marine park’s Siji Islet (西吉嶼), he saw that coral bleaching had spread there, too.

However, coral damaged by natural phenomena — such as a typhoon or heavy rainfall — can potentially recover, he said.

Sand that had been piled up near the port on Dongyupingyu for a public project was swept up by a storm and deposited on corals along the islet’s coast, covering them with a 20cm layer and likely killing them, Chen said.

Boats have been anchoring above corals so that tourists can easily find them while diving, he said, adding that this would harm the reefs.

The marine park headquarters has installed moorings throughout the park that allow boats to anchor near the reefs without damaging the corals, the park said.

Boat operators who engage in activities that could damage the corals would face fines of NT$3,000 per incident, in addition to the cost for coral reef recovery measures.


Marine food webs could be radically altered by heating of oceans

Temperature and carbon dioxide changes reduce the numbers of some species and promote the growth of algae, a University of Adelaide study found

  • By Graham Readfearn / The Guardian

Heating of the world’s oceans could radically reorganize marine food webs across the globe, causing the numbers of some species to collapse while promoting the growth of algae, new research has warned.

Healthy marine food webs that look like a pyramid, with smaller numbers of larger predatory species at the top and more abundant smaller organisms at the bottom, could become “bottom heavy.”

The types of species that could become less abundant in the oceans are the same ones targeted by commercial fishing and also are socially and culturally important to many communities around the globe.

In the research, published in the journal Science, researchers at the University of Adelaide recreated a marine habitat in a series of 1,800-liter tanks and then subjected some to temperature and carbon dioxide changes.

Ivan Nagelkerken, a professor in the university’s Environment Institute who led the research, said gazing into the tanks after six months when the study period ended had not been a pretty sight.

“It looked bad,” he said.

After being subjected to higher temperatures and higher carbon dioxide, the rocks were overgrown with turf algae and the sandy bottom had a lot more slimy algae that is toxic to some species, he said.

The tanks recreated a habitat off the coast of Adelaide in Gulf St Vincent that was about 6m deep.

Many of the species placed into the tanks — including kelp, crustaceans and the multitude of different bacteria on rocks, sand and in sediment — were gathered from the gulf. Native fish and crabs were also added.

Twelve tanks of ocean water — known as mesocosms — were split into four groups. Temperature and carbon dioxide levels were not adjusted in one group.

In another four tanks, the water temperature was raised over the course of six weeks until they were 2.8oC higher than today.

Another group of tanks had their carbon dioxide levels adjusted to the equivalent of 910 parts per million in the atmosphere, causing the water to become less alkaline.

The habitat in the fourth group of tanks was treated to both higher temperatures and higher levels of carbon dioxide.

Both the carbon dioxide conditions and the temperatures reflect conditions expected towards the end of this century in a world where little is done to curb fossil fuel burning.

Nagelkerken said the results of the experiment remained relevant even if the world did act to slow down the rising levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

In 2011 a marine heatwave in Western Australia raised ocean temperatures more than 2oC for about 10 weeks. A study five years later found no recovery of the kelp — a vital component shaping the marine ecosystem there.

“That marine heatwave showed that even over just a few weeks, that caused the kelp to disappear,” Nagelkerken said.

He said the research showed that ocean heating “reshuffles species communities” with weedy plants and algae thriving, but the “abundance of other species, especially invertebrates, collapses.”

Nagelkerken said the changed pyramid that was fatter at the bottom and thinner in the middle, could eventually see larger predators also losing out.

In the study, the researchers write: “The top of food webs may eventually become depleted under future climate conditions or additional human disturbances.”

The small fish that were the predators in the tank resisted the impacts of warming, but the experiment showed the food they ate was becoming impoverished — an imbalance that could see the top predators struggling.

An ecological tipping point could be reached where “the top of the food web can no longer be supported,” the study says.

Nagelkerken said that in the real world, the impacts would vary depending on whether species could move to different areas. Some species would not be able to.

He said there was already evidence species were extending their ranges away from the equator as oceans got warmer and this, together with changes to the food webs, could also see traditional fishing grounds move, creating knock-on effects for communities that had been built around fishing.

“It’s not just climate change, but also our removal of predatory fish [through overfishing] and the addition of nutrients into the ocean. We have to consider all of that too,” he added.

Kirsty Nash, of the Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies at the University of Tasmania, who was not involved in the research, said studying the resilience of marine systems was challenging, and the researchers had struck a balance between what was practically possible while giving an insight into real-world impacts.

“Developing this type of understanding is really important if we want to then address questions around the broader consequences of climate change for society, for example, are fisheries likely to suffer as a result of climate change,” she said.

The experimental findings in the tanks were likely only showing an “intermediate state” that was a prelude to the development of “radically different” food webs, she said.

She said many places in the world had fish that societies consumed, but that the study suggested would be impacted.

“These local fish are popular eating fish, so this would have implications for what’s available, but it does depend on the area and how culturally and socially acceptable that would be,” she said.

Sophie Dove, an associate professor at the University of Queensland, who has run large long-term mesocosm experiments, said the study adds to mounting evidence that under the current trajectory of carbon dioxide emissions “services will be lost from our most valued ecosystems.”

She said she would have preferred that the experimental conditions had more closely mirrored the daily and seasonal changes in light, temperature and carbon dioxide.

However, the experiment demonstrated that organisms at the bottom of the food chain — such as “relatively inedible slimy algae” — did well under the changing conditions, but small plants that helped give rocky reefs their structure “do very badly under warming and acidification,” she said.